The Improv Musical

Fri 5th – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Hannah Congdon

at 23:34 on 20th Aug 2016

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Robin Kendall opens ‘The Improv Musical’ standing jovially before a whiteboard. It is a blank canvas onto which he invites the audience to write a musical; proposals that are met with shouts of approval from the audience are then noted down on the board, however bizarre or contradictory they may be. Our particular musical takes the innovative location of a morgue as its backdrop, thanks to the suggestion of an excitable man sitting in the front row. The central character fits under the typecast of 'guy who invades personal space'. Given just minutes to prepare, two of the six available actors (Joe Thompson-Oubari and Tom Slade), take to the stage as Jack and Terry, and begin a blossoming romance as two corpses decaying alongside each other in the morgue.

Flirtatious conversation develops into a moving rendition of ‘My First Kiss’ (another light-bulb idea from the audience), as the two men relate how their love for each other has released them from the shackles of their corpses and into free-roaming spirits. It is a reflection on the brilliant unpredictability of the improvisation that the actors manage to stumble across a parallel metaphor for coming out of the closet: coming out of the corpse. There is, of course, a flip-side to all of this, with many of the scenes descending into baffling farce and losing any sense of narrative. But the rewarding laughter of lines as unabashedly forced as "You won’t put us in the grave/Because I’m…errr…surprisingly brave’’ more than make up for the sometimes confusing and stuttering plot development.

This is, admittedly, all rather silly, but it is silliness at its best, and the absurdity of the act should not allow the skillfulness of the cast and crew to be overlooked. From Kendall’s snappy synopses and the subtle lighting changes, through to Theo Caplan’s spontaneous piano accompaniment, this is a theatre group that, during its most impressive moments, has an almost intuitive cohesion.

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Ellen Hodgetts

at 23:45 on 20th Aug 2016

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From its opening this is a fast paced and energised performance. Producer Robin Kendall opens the floor for the audience suggestions which will form the basis of this evening's musical. His manner is immediately engaging, and his enthusiasm and attitude infectious, as such early audience participation creates an active and exciting atmosphere. A show in which the audience can decide the setting, song titles, characters and overall title of the musical performed is an unusual premise, but one which is executed very well and with ease by this group from Warwick University.

In the performance I see, the bizarre premise is a musical set in a morgue, populated by kissing corpses and plasterers (specifically) from Essex. This set up relishes in farce, but is pleasingly stuck to throughout with hilarious results. The stand out performance from this show is the duo of Tom Slade and Joe Thompson-Oubari, who act out a tender yet comic relationship between two of the corpses at the morgue with great skill. The talent of all six performers is apparent, as they adapt with ease and great levels of wit to the audience’s suggestions.

At times, some performers struggle with the openings of the musical numbers and sound is often lost due to the relatively large venue size. Nevertheless, these wobbles are countered and overcome by an enthusiasm which is palpable throughout, creating an engaging and high energy performance which enchants the entire audience. The cast’s enjoyment of both the creation and performance elements of the show is contagious, creating an enjoyable atmosphere which makes the hour fly by.

This is not a show that takes itself seriously – at times the musical descends into farcical nonsense, but this is where its charm lies. Even when the performers struggle with lyrics or forget the names of the characters they are playing, the audience still laugh. I become quickly caught up in the magic of this show, and am disappointed when it ends. It is a show that could be seen again and again – witty, charming and hilarious, it promises something different every night.

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